I was burned in a house fire when I was six weeks old. Living with my biological family at the time, my parents left 5 children home alone. The fire was caused by my four year old brother who decided to play with a lighter. After the fire was started, the kids escaped the burning house and I remained inside. I was rescued and sent to UW Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.
Due to being burned at such a young age, I have been involved in the burn community for the last 17 years. Most of my experience in the burn community has been in Wisconsin. Over the last few years I have been very fortunate to be able to meet burn survivors and attend young adult programming for burn survivors all over the country. One of the greatest impacts on my life has been The Wise Foundation’s Young Adult Conference. Not only has their conference allowed me to grow as a survivor, it has allowed me to grow as a leader. Their conference has provided invaluable information to myself and all who have attended. It has also allowed me to give back to the burn community.
The Wise Foundation has provided tools for burn survivors to set goals and achieve their dreams. For me it has been a renewed sense of purpose and motivation to move forward with school, as well as move forward with my public speaking. I plan to take the skills and tools I have learned and apply them to my education, and finish my Associates degree in marketing. I also plan to continue to develop my public speaking, with the hopes of being able to not only give back to the burn community but to make a bigger impact on the world.
Towards the end of 2014, my mom and dad dropped me, my little brother, and sister off at my older sister’s house while both parents continued to do drugs. My mom gave up all parental rights, leaving me and my siblings with nothing. I felt so empty and helpless. But still, I’m at the best point in my life right now and it all started going uphill from the day that I won the Wise Foundation Change Challenge. I was trying to live my life this way before I won but it wasn’t working. I was waiting for rides and I was late all the time. Then I was blessed with the gift of the change challenge and won the car.
Currently, I wake up at 6:30am every morning Monday through Friday and go to Bartlesville Tech for automotive collision repair, and it’s something I really enjoy doing. I leave there at 11:00 to be in Barnsdall at my high school by 12:35pm. After that I go home I get changed and go to work at McDonalds in Pawhuska from 6:30pm and I get home about 12:15am every night. I work Saturdays at Bartlesville Customs Audio Shop from 10:00 am until 2:00pm in the afternoon. I leave there and head back to McDonalds and work until close. On Sundays, I sometimes get to relax for a little bit but usually its right back to work.
I just want everyone to know that winning this challenge was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It has taken so much stress out of my life and it has helped our family so much. I want to say I don’t think my life would be anything like it is now. I think I would have lost my job because I was always late and not been able to get my second job. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with football or Bartlesville tech. This opportunity that I was given by the Wise Foundation is and always will be incredible. Thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to enter for The Change Challenge. I sure put that little car to use.
I was around the age of two when I received my scars. I was with my younger cousin playing house in the hallway closet while everyone else played outside. Then, my older cousin came by, messing around with a lighter he’d found. He held the lighter closer to the clothes in the closet than he’d expected and they caught aflame. The events that followed were instantaneous; the clothes then melted off their hangers and onto me, the carpet and door frame began to burn and my older cousin ran outside to get my dad. Luckily, it was just me that was injured, and not my younger cousin. My scars were of the third degree on both my legs and my right arm. I spent an estimated two or three months in recovery before I was allowed to go home, with both the burden of the physical scars as well as emotional.
I am now nineteen and am working hard to achieve my goal of becoming a recreational therapist. I take several advanced classes to help me achieve this goal as well as hopefully started an intern job this summer. The desire to become a recreational therapist came out of nowhere, really, but once I thought about it, I instantly knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life. I want to help those in need, like those who’d helped me when I needed them. In 2012, I had the chance to attend a wonderful program that is now managed by The Wise Foundation. At first, I was a little hesitant about going, but now I am glad I did. Those four days improved my life. I left with a better mindset than I had going in. I am not as shy and self-conscious about my scars as I had been because I know I’m not the only one who has been through what I have. Hearing all the different stories and experiences of the survivors has opened my mind to how blessed we are to be here and that we are strong and we are survivors. The Wise Foundation has undoubtedly changed my life for the better and I will continue to attend any of their programs for as long as I am able, because I know that the people who make these programs happen truly care for us and I will be forever grateful for them.